Tesla’s fourth Gigafactory, and its first in Europe, is officially opened today by the company’s CEO, Elon Musk, Reuters reports. The milestone came about two and a half years after Tesla originally announced plans to build a factory at the site, which is located just outside the German capital, Berlin, and is officially called Giga Berlin-Brandenburg.
As part of the opening ceremony, Tesla presents customers with the first production cars produced at the factory: 30 Model Y compact SUVs. Reuters reports that this is the performance configuration of the vehicle, which has a range of 320 miles and sells for €63,990.
Glad to be handing over the first production cars made by Giga Berlin-Brandenburg tomorrow!
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 21, 2022
Tesla received tentative approval to begin commercial production at the plant earlier this month, CNBC reported at the time, allowing it to produce up to 500,000 vehicles at the site per year. The company had originally hoped to start production at the plant in the summer of 2021, but a combination of the pandemic, supply chain disruptions and environmental concerns delayed its opening.
Environmental concerns have surrounded the plant since its earliest stages of preparation, dating back to February 2020, when Tesla was forced to temporarily halt work at the factory site. But Tesla and its CEO have always championed the factory’s impact on the environment. Musk argued that the Gigafactory will use “relatively little” water and that the forest that needed to be cleared before it was built was unnatural (it was planted to supply a cardboard factory). In a letter sent to a local court, Tesla argued that the German regulatory framework “directly contradicts the urgency of planning and carrying out such projects which are necessary to combat climate change”. Reuters reported in April 2021.
Although the factory is now operational, Musk has previously warned that ramping up production is the real challenge. German edition Automobilwoche previously reported that Tesla hopes to increase production to around 1,000 units per week in January, and that the plant could supply a maximum of 30,000 vehicles in the first half of 2022. Eventually, Tesla said it aims to produce up to to 500,000 cars and 50 GWh of battery capacity per year on the site. Reuters reports that the company has hired more than 3,000 of the 12,000 workers who should eventually be part of the plant.
Creating a European manufacturing hub will be a major logistical win for Tesla, which currently imports European cars from factories elsewhere in the world. The Berlin Gigafactory follows locations in Nevada, New York and Shanghai, China. A fifth plant is currently under construction in Texas, where the company will also be headquartered.